Give us your search strategies!

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Image source: Pixabay (CC-0)

This post is by Library Research Support Advisor, Kirstine McDermid

We’ve had a few researchers through the doors of the Research Hub recently who have told us that their publishers are requesting search strategies in order to publish them alongside papers.

It is encouraging to see that search strategies are becoming more of a prerequisite for some publications – especially for systematic reviews. However we were concerned to hear that one publisher appeared to be suggesting that the author retrospectively add keywords that had not been searched for to the published version of a search strategy. If they thought the search was inadequate it would be reasonable to ask the authors to revise it and take account of any new results but it is clearly bad practice to publish a false search strategy.

Like all good science, search results need to be transparent, open and reproducible.  In systematic reviews we need to see how the study came about the evidence, what search methods, and databases were used so that systematic reviews can be quality assessed, understood and validated, and can also be easily updated in the future. We’ve recently made a search strategies resource to facilitate making search strategies open access.   Openly accessible search strategies can also be used by other information specialists and researchers to develop searches that go on to inform future research projects. It is important to get the search right from the outset and essential that all searches conducted for the project are recorded accurately – not fabricated upon publication.

Rightly so, the researcher in question submitted only the search terms that were actually used, and they did not follow the poor advice of the publisher to improve their search strategies after the event; this would only be appropriate if the review was redone to incorporate the new results the extra search terms brought up.

The Library’s Research Support Team work with researchers to get their searches right from the outset and can advise on how to record all searching activity. If your project is funded we can use our expertise to do the searches on your behalf and provide neat search strategies documentation and search methods text in preparation for publication.

Contact Lucid if you require literature searching support for your next research project.

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Author: libnsh

Research Data Management Advisor

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